History/Philosophy

Creation Myth

Chances are that you have a computer mouse in your hand as you read these words. That object, now ubiquitous throughout the world, originated in the mid-1970's in Xerox's PARC laboratory in Palo Alto, which was a competitor to the famous Bell Telephone Labs in New Jersey.

The Information: A History. A Theory. A Flood.

If information about information is metadata, that's what we have here. As most of us are trying to drink from a firehose of information that clogs our eyes, ears, and every mailbox, James Glieck (author of "Chaos") helps us to step back to view the larger picture, with a longer perspective.

The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth of America

The BCCE in 1994 was at Bucknell University, not far from the US home of Joseph Priestley, and I was one of a group that went there to see his place. While I knew some of his scientific contributions, I did not at the time appreciate how important a role he had played in the intellectual life of the nascent republic.

The Archimedes Codex: How a Medieval Prayer Book is Revealing the True Genius of Antiquity's Greatest Scientist

I bought "The Archimedes Codex" (the cloth cover edition, no less) because of the recommendation of Dick Pagni in the Summer Reading article in July, 2008. The book is available in paper beginning next month (January), but it is the kind of book that you might want to keep permanently in your library.

The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments

Lists of "the best" movies, books, sports stars, American Idols, etc. etc. are often intriguing and controversial. Science has its own lists, be they Nobelists or most-cited publications. Just a little while ago (could it really have been November, 2005?) Philip Ball's list of "elegant" chemistry experiments was my choice of the month.

The Copernican Myths

When asked by one of our students about the significance of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and his revolutionary (pun intended) theory of the solar system, most of us would recite the folkloric tale. A brilliant astronomer, dissatisfied with the inaccuracies of Ptolemy, devised a completely new model for the solar system.

Einstein: His Life and Universe

What were personal qualities of the greatest scientist of the twentieth century that differentiated him from his contemporaries? I have read a lot of books about Albert Einstein, who was one of my childhood heroes (along with the Lone Ranger).

The Immortal Game: A History of Chess

One might expect that an especially memorable chess match would have been a world championship game, or at least a tournament competition. However, one of the most famous matches ever played was an exhibition that had no significance for any competition.